Liberians turned out in their numbers over the weekend at the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Paynesville to pay their last respects to the former Transitional Council chairperson, Madam Ruth Sando Fahnbulleh Perry, who cemented her place in the country’s history as the first woman to reach the pinnacle of political leadership in the country
Many of those at the memorial service were present in the country during the heat of the Liberian civil crisis and witnessed the significant role Madam Perry played when she served as the chairperson of the five-member Council of State transitional team that subsequently brought peace to the country, though briefly, before the elections brought former President Charles Taylor to power.
Led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, many past and present government officials and several members of the diplomatic and consular corps were also in attendance filling The Good Shepherd edifice to capacity.
Madam Perry died in Columbus, Ohio, United States of America on January 8 this year at the age of 78. Her public service began on September 3, 1996, when she was sworn in as head of a five member Council of State, and the only woman among the men – many of whom were representing warring factions.
With that portfolio, Madam Perry was the third chair of an interim arrangement—succeeding Professor Wilton G. S. Sankawulo.
She accomplished, with the help of her colleagues, the mandate of the council in nine months during which time legislative and presidential elections were held and she successfully handed over power to the duly elected government on August 2, 1997.
At the memorial service, the Government of Liberia described Madam Perry as a true advocate for women and peace, an administrator, patriot, stateswoman and an ardent and devout Episcopalian.
Paying tribute on behalf of the government was Professor Weade Kobbah Wureh, former vice chairperson of another interim arrangement—the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL).
“As every Liberian at the time knew, Madam Perry had the colossal task of uniting a divided country and people. This was even made difficult because the period was short,” Prof. Wureh said.
She recalled that Madam Perry received numerous awards in recognition of her distinguished role for the promotion of women in peace-building in Liberia, Africa and other countries in conflict, and her advocacy for peace and unity during Liberia’s difficult period. Wureh described her as a “Good woman advocate and a stateswoman.”
The Vicar of Good Shepherd said that many Liberians can attest that the charge given to Madam Perry by God was truly kept.
In his brief homily titled “A Charge to Keep,” Father Peter Inuwa said everyone has a charge to keep in their area of assignment, like Madam Perry did by successfully nurturing the peace in Liberia during those difficult days in the nation’s history.
He called on the bereaved family and friends to take solace in the Lord. “This is not a gathering to weep for Madam Perry, but to rejoice for a life well lived,” he said.
He urged Liberians to desist from pretense and hatred that have not and will never do anyone any good, adding: “nowadays, so – so pretense and hatred live with us.”
He said Madam Perry lived a life of sharing with people and related to her fellowman in the church, and described the fallen stateswoman as a “dedicated church-woman and public servant” that performed very well in public service and the church.
He used the occasion to encourage Liberians to join the ongoing voter registration process to enable them to choose their leaders. Rev. Fr. Inuwa pointed out that leaders are chosen by God, while at same time encouraging those who want to be leaders to wait for their time.
Madam Perry was born on July 16, 1939, in Grand Cape Mount County – the daughter of Marjon and Alhaji Semila Fahnbulleh. She was later enrolled in a Roman Catholic School for girls in Monrovia, run by Catholic missionary nuns. She became a teacher and a banker by profession before she was elected to the Liberian parliament in 1985.
She was married to Cllr. McDonald M. Perry, former Judge and Legislator of Grand Cape Mount County, who predeceased her in 1985. They were blessed with seven children.
During the funeral the family members presented to the government of Liberia a “Peace Cap” which Madam Perry wore on her return from Nigeria, following her appointment as chairperson of the transitional government. They requested that the cap be kept at the National Archives for future generations to see.